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Letter from Ed: Up, Up and Away! – Adjusting to the Social Media!
Pallet Enterprise founder discusses the challenges of social media and how to take advantage of this growing marketing channel even for those who struggle with new technology.

By Edward C. Brindley
Date Posted: 12/1/2012

This October I had the privilege of going to the international hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, N. M., the largest balloon festival anywhere in the world. As I think back about the festival, particularly my first balloon ride, I find myself focusing on doing things for the first time and even being willing to take some risks. For me, one of the most significant changes taking place today, one that I am having some difficulty adjusting to as I grow older, is that of social media on the Internet.

It seems like yesterday when I first heard the term social media. Social what? I couldnt even visualize what it was. During this years presidential election, there were literally millions of tweets during the hour and a half of each debate. The idea is to discover what people are thinking about a major event while it is taking place in so-called real time.

The concept of analyzing what is going through peoples minds on the heels of when an event is happening has a certain allure. What doesnt make sense is keeping short term tabs on a persons every action. When I see some of the Facebook posts made by friends and acquaintances, I sometimes have to scratch my head. I dont really care what you had for breakfast because I am on a diet and what you ate looks better than what I had. Nor do I want you to tell me about the progress of your virtual farm on Farmville.

This is the image of social media that tends to taint my perspective. How should we use social media options in the business world? I am still searching for a good answer to this question. I am not, however, struggling to decide if our publications are going to have an increasing presence on social media in the coming years. That is a given considering the vast growth potential and the ability to interact deeper with people beyond just the written page. Our staff is the major information source for the wooden pallet and container industry, as well as an influence in the overall materials handling and logistics industries. We owe it to our readers and advertisers to be a player in the social media space.

Chaille recently gave me an article on the myths in social media; it really caught my attention. I will list several in this column and make some comments about what seems to me to be the best social media strategy for our industry.

Myth #1: my customers arent on social media. While there is some truth in the statement that social media is not being used to its fullest potential, it is not true that it is not being used. I understand that as of February 2012, 66% of online adults are using social media sites. Facebook (66%) is the most popular; LinkedIn (20%) is second most popular, and Twitter (16%) is third. Our customers and yours are probably on at least one social media site.

Myth #2: if you build it, they will come. Simply putting up a Facebook page or starting a profile on LinkedIn doesnt really do much unless you develop a strategy and execute it. You need to identify what are your goals for social media. Some possible goals might be to develop a new angle of your brand with an emerging market, prospect for new contacts, develop an online reputation as an expert in your field, find new business partners to advance your network (including suppliers and regional third party service providers), drive direct sales of excess inventory, attract top talent, promote your overall industry to business customers or deflect criticism from an opposing business sector, etc. Then, you have to execute a strategy that meets those objectives and promote your online presence to as many people in the target audience as possible.

One big problem is that many companies fail to realize that social media is all about people. You should strive to turn at least some social media interactions into face-to-face meetings or phone calls to truly develop contacts that can benefit your business.

Myth #3: you have to be everywhere to be a social media success. It seems the list of popular social media sites never stops growing. It can be overwhelming if a small company tries to develop a significant presence on each site. The top social sites are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest. The best way to develop a winning campaign is to target one or two social media sites first. You may have an account on other social media sites just to reserve your company name and brand. And you can tie those sites into your main two social media focuses through feeds and other integrations. Honestly, we have done very little with social media. But we are getting ready to change that and you will see more presence of our staff on these marketing channels in 2013.

Myth #4: my teenager can run my social media campaign. Just because your teenage child is constantly on a social media site, that doesnt guarantee his or her ability to speak affectively for you. Just because it is fairly easy to use social media, that does not remove your responsibility over what you say and what your words mean. Once something is printed or posted, people can access it for years. Things tend to never really die on the Internet. Our words take on a life of their own. Be careful what you say even though you may have to make many decisions quickly in the social media universe. This is particularly true before you re-post or share something from an outside source. Retweeting or sharing posts you havent actually read is risky. Take the time to know what you are promoting because headlines rarely reveal the whole story. So before you attach your reputation to an article or photo link, make sure its what you think it is. Also, poorly written or grammar error-ridden content reflect badly on your organization.

Companies must designate somebody who will guide and execute its social media strategy. It may take a team of people to do various tasks. These duties should be assigned, monitored and scheduled. I encourage that whoever does this for your company put reminders in their schedule to make social media posts or interactions. Or this person could designate a certain period of time each week to handle this online outreach.

Myth # 5: social media is dangerous people will say bad things. While it is true that people might say bad things and social media presents the potential to have access to more listeners and readers than was once possible, that does not suggest it is OK to bury our heads in the sand. According to a Harris report, the vast majority of consumers started doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. We need to be in a position to spot and understand questions and negative issues, and social media is a way to identify these problems before they result in significant business losses.

Myth #6: nobody cares what I think. If you use social media to just talk about yourself or your company and its products, this might be a true concept. But if you use it to share valuable information, it can make you stand out when compared to others. If you offer good content on topics of interest to your customers, then you will start to build your reputation as an influencer. The good news is that you dont have to start a publishing company to get in on this opportunity. There is nothing wrong with linking and making quick comments on relevant content from third party sources. The Pallet Enterprise website is full of information that is helpful to you and your customers. Feel free to link to content. All we ask is that you dont put our content on your website unless you get permission.

As we develop a plan to use social media affectively, we will keep an eye on these six myths and how to exploit them to benefit people who want answers about pallets and the pallet industry.

Its Up, Up, and Away when it comes to social media these days. If this old dog is willing to learn some new tricks, so can you.

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